River of Forgetfulness #18 - 19 "Everybody needs a friend like this.


Kathleen Black had just finished the shower she so desperately needed... over an hour of cleansing... when Red Alert sounded. She changed quickly into a fresh uniform and pulled back her hair into a ponytail as she hurried for Engineering. She checked the reports and sent her own to the command center to let them know that Engineering was all set.

As the alert continued on, though, she began to get restless. All the engineers were doing her part, coordinating with Ops, and she felt a bit silly sitting there and getting status reports. So she picked up a toolkit and headed out to one of the areas where a problem had been reported with the environmental controls. The reports would all be the same anyways, until something happened.

Kristiana had returned to her quarters after going off-duty for some well-earned and well-necessary leave. But her quarters didn't bring her the rest she craved. She became restless, pacing a bit, eventually just giving up. Heading out of her quarters, through the corridors, on her way to the holodeck. She needed to vent, and she knew just the program to do it with.

Kitty was just a little too eager in her patching, deciding to do a hot-replace instead of shutting down power to the entire unit, and blinked as the wiring spit sparks at her. "Ouch!" She bumped her head on the inside of the little compartment she was half-disappeared into and withdrew in time to see the XO wandering down the corridor. She put one hand the back of her head where she'd just bumped it and waved cheerily with the other.

Kris saw a shapely pair of legs sticking out from inside a compartment, and a nicely rounded set of buns wiggling a bit. She paused and blinked. Then she heard the short-circuit, the muffled 'Ouch !' and the thud what followed. A slight smirk formed on her tired face, as Kitty Black extricated herself from the wall, and waved at her. "Lieutenant." Petrova spoke, walking towards one of the few people she'd consider a friend. "Kathleen .." she added.

"Hi," Kitty said, tilting her head slightly, noticing her friend's tired face. "You look like you didn't get much sleep on your... adventure. Are you ok?"

"Heh .. Sleep is the one thing I got plenty of." Kristiana answered, cryptically, as she knelt down to eyelevel, resting her arms on her knees. "How are you holding up, after all what happened ?" she asked, like a good friend and caring officer.

Kitty shifted to sit crosslegged on the floor, resting her hands on her feet. "Well, there's work to do, and that's a good thing. I'm just very, very glad to be back." She smiled wryly. "Silly as it sounds, I'm glad to get my own hair back most of all."

Kris nodded a bit. "Well, that's good .." She agreed. "I .. The .. captain has given me a few days of leave, to .. work through all what happened." the russian admitted, quietly.

"It must've been pretty bad," Kitty said sympathetically. "What happened...?" She took a moment to remember how Petrova had been dressed, and blinked twice. "Oh."

"Eh .." Kris shrugged a bit. " .. I was just on my way to the holodeck .. You're welcome to come with me if you're not too busy. I could use .. someone to talk to." The older redhead spoke. ".. I think it'd help me."

Kitty paused for a moment, then nodded. "Just let me get this panel back up and I'll come. Unless something suddenly happens... you know, by now Engineering almost runs itself." She shifted back onto her knees, double-checking her work, then lifting the panel back into place.

Kris nodded, rising to her feet again .. She waited till Kitty was done, then offered the young asian woman a hand up, before continuing to the holodeck. "You know the story behind .. Bathory ?" she asked Kathleen.

"I thought I heard you telling a little bit about it during the party," Kitty said, following her friend, hoisting the strap of her repair kit over her shoulder.

Kris nodded a bit, stepping into the turbolift. "In a nutshell, she was a mass murderess. Killed around 500 young women, like you." the russian woman spoke, quietly.

Kitty shook her head. "Probably not like me," she said, leaning against the turbolift wall.

"Young .. Beautiful .. Virgin .. Yes, yes, exactly like you." Kristiana spoke, remembering it, remembering it all like it'd happened yesterday. It wasn't a great leap of imagination to picture Kathleen chained to that wall instead of that peasant's daughter who's name Kristiana didn't even know. "Bathory .. She'd torture them .. Sometimes rape them .. And bathe in their blood. This - she believed - let her stay forever young." Kris scowled, remembering it vividly - remembering her own desire to remain young, she loathed aging just as Erszebeth did - the idea of becoming old and wrinkly and ugly, it terrified her, just as it did Bathory.

Kitty frowned and inwardly cringed. "But you're not like that at all," she said. "Not at all."

"I'm not ?" Kristiana challenged, as she stepped out of the turbolift again, stalking towards the holodeck. "I'm almost 40, Kitty. My hair is only still red because I keep it that way. My skin, it's .. " She sighed, pausing at the holodeck door, tapping in a few commands on the panel. "I'm growing old. Every day passed is one more day that's behind me. And I am losing my beauty. It .. might seem not as important to you - you're still young - but the idea of becoming an old hag, it .. it terrifies me." The holodeck door opened and Kristiana stepped inside.

The holodeck was a dojo of sorts, now. With various weapons on a wall - bladed ones - of many different designs. Kristiana wandered up to the wall and took down a Katana. "I was Erszebeth Bathory, for three years and loose change." she spoke as she stepped to the center of the sparring mat. "I knew everything she knew. I wanted everything she wanted. I craved everything she craved. Computer, begin." A masked holographic opponent appeared, armed with two Sai. "I murdered, Kathleen." Kristiana spoke as she stepped back to dodge an attack, blocking it with the blade of her sword. ".. And I enjoyed it."

Kitty sat herself down outside the sparring mat, watching and listening. She shuddered and then shook her head. "It was very strong. That desire to be like... like the other person. It was a fight just to try to remember who I really was. I've heard that for some people it was even harder than others, even more of a transformation." Kitty watched the spar begin. "Three years? Mine was only a few weeks, maybe a couple of months. I couldn't imagine being stuck like that for three years. I might've lost myself completely."

Kristiana listened to Kathleen, as she pushed her opponent back, then in one fierce motion severed the hologram's arms, following it up by a slash that sliced into the masked opponent's chest - he collapsed to the ground, disappearing with a blue shimmer as he did - and instantly the next opponent apeared, armed with a Katana as well.

"Yours was a constant struggle, because - gah !" Kris sidestepped an attack, just barely. " - because Earhart and Black are two com - hup !" sidestepping again, blocking her opponent's strike with her own and aiming a crunching uppercut to his jaw. " .. pletely different people. Mine wasn't a struggle - we were - Gyaah !" and after another feint and a strike, this opponent was felled, too. " .. exactly the same - Erszebeth and me."

Kitty shook her head. "You don't think I'm at all like Amelia?" She gave a slight, amazed laugh. "It was... just similar enough to confuse me, just different enough to make me wonder exactly who was 'speaking' at time. It was... in a way, it was almost like having a sister."

"Computer, stop." Kris spoke, just as her next opponent would materialise. She sighed a bit, chest heaving some from the excersize, as she moved to sit down next to Kathleen, looking at the other woman. "Somehow I don't see you as the kind what would frolic about behind Ronald's back or could stand to live seperately from him .. If the stories I've heard and read about Earhart and her husband are true."

Kitty shook her head. "She didn't frolic. She didn't trust men. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother moved away from him... reconciled and left several times before they finally divorced. She didn't want that to happen to her." Then she chuckled wryly. "But it's not my fault she thought Ronald was cute, too. She didn't act on it. I did."

"Why'd she get married in the first place, then ?" Kristiana asked. She didn't understand that dynamic very well - if Amelia mistrusted men, why marry one ?

"He talked her into it," Kitty said, leaning back, pulling her knees up and rocking slightly, looking thoughtful. "After they became.. intimate. And she agreed reluctantly." She shook her head. "I've really, really, really tried to not remember too much of that part, of... well... you know, married couple things."

Kristiana nodded a bit, pondering. "Well .. I guess that one thing that all this has shown us, it's things that we are capable of." She sighed, looking at Kathleen. "Given the right circumstances."

Kitty nodded and remained silent for a moment, then spoke again, as if not quite speaking to Kris, not quite speaking to anyone in particular. "I love flying," she said. "I, me myself. It's like..." She shook her head slightly and raised her hands, trying to describe it and running out of words. "Invigorating. Exhilarating. I, uhm... I scared Ronald at times. And I wasn't scared. Even when I was outflying the alien craft."

".. Well, you could always use the holodeck .. If you want to fly." Kristiana spoke. "Or take a shuttlecraft or runabout." She added, with a shrug. "Seems to me like you gained a new hobby."

Kitty shook her head. "My mother's a pilot. And I... well... I don't think I want to... I don't think I _can_ be like her."

"And every pilot is per definition the same ?" Kristiana asked. "Your mother flies combat, far as I know. Using the holodeck to fly old atmospheric planes, would be a hobby. Relaxing. I mean - I use a sword in my excersize programs. But that doesn't make me Hattori Hanzo."

"It doesn't?" Kitty dared to joke. "You're really good at it," she said. "I'm impressed."

"I'm not talking about skill, I'm talking about the thoughts and the ideas and the reasons behind it. Hanzo was a great samurai. He made his Katana the focus of his life. Everything he did revolved around it, and he made fighting with it, an art-form. Like your mother and her fighter." Kristiana spoke. "For me, it's a hobby. Something I enjoy doing, from time to time. It helps keep me in shape, it helps keep me sharp. But at the end of the day, it's just a hobby. And when more important things come along - like sitting here and talking with you - I have absolutely no problem putting the sword aside. See my point ?"

Yeah, I see what you mean," Kitty said contemplatively. Then she smiled. "But don't worry too much... that Q thing, it messes with your head. You're no more her than you are whatever you... she... was.. were... in the alternate universe." Kitty took a moment to think and try to remember. "Come to think of it, I don't think I ever knew what your other you was like."

"Neither do I, really. Though she packed a mean right hook." Kris half joked as she rubbed her cheek a bit. "I didn't get a chance to really speak with her. Part of me .. regrets that. Another part doesn't. Though your Ronald's counterpart was a real piece of work, he was."

Kitty couldn't help laughing at that. "Yeah, that's one way of putting it. I'm glad he's not like that here! And I..." She sobered. "I didn't exist, because my mother didn't want me."

Kris nodded a bit, hesitating a moment, then resting a hand on Kathleen's leg. "That .. really doesn't matter that much, in the end. Because .. In the here and now .. We DO want you around. And we'd be at a loss what to do if you weren't."

Kitty smiled. "Thanks. That... it means a lot, to know. And I should know it all the time. But it's good to be reminded. And what you are... is what You are. Not what someone like you did in another world. Not what happened when you got joined to a murderess."

Kristiana chuckled a bit and shook her head some. "If only it were so easy." She replied, with a sigh. "But I know, for myself .. Deep, deep down .. I'm capable of murdering in cold blood. And deep, deep down .. I'm capable of enjoying it. And that's something I'll have to learn to live with."

Kitty shifted position and looked up at Kris, a serious look on her face. "Isnt it better to find out that way, then? In a fantasy?"

"One might argue it's better not to find out at all." Kris sighed, glancing away, shoulders slumping. ".. Because whether it was a fantasy or not .. To me, it was real. It happened. To me, she is dead .. And I killed her. And then I spent three years living in my own filth, without clean clothes, no bathroom, no shower, no nothing .. And eventually, I just .. gave up. And waited for death."

Kitty cringed again, picturing the scene all too well. She closed her eyes for a moment, then reached out to rest her hand on her friend's shoulder. "That sounds terrible. And I thought I had it bad, just trying to decide what to do with a husband I didn't choose to marry."

".. Someone once said that - .. we all will face the problems we are strong enough to deal with." Kristiana sighed, closing her eyes, leaning baaaack .. Not finding a back-rest on the bench, she flailed arms and crashed down, cursing in russian.

Kitty started to laugh, then forced herself to stop, putting her hand over her mouth. "Oh I'm sorry! Are you ok?" She was still trying to avoid chuckling, though. The clue was that her dark eyes appeared to be full of stars.

"If I were fine I wouldn't need three bloody days of leave, would I." Kristiana scowled as she sat up again and sighed. "Eh, I'll be alright. Don't you worry about that."

"You just need a little thinking time," Kitty said encouragingly. "You'll be ok. Make Ryylar give you chocolate coffee."

"Nah, there's other things he can give me, that I prefer." she smirked a bit.

"Oh I think I'm not going to think anything more about that," Kitty said wryly. "I'd better get back to Engineering and make sure nothing's fallen apart in my brief absence."

Kristiana nodded a bit, and rose to her feet, managing a soft smile. She really did feel better, after this talk. "c'mere .." she spoke, pulling Kathleen into a tight hug. ".. thank you. For .. Well, for being you." she sighed, closing her eyes for a moment, enjoying the feel of her friend's body against hers.

Kitty smiled and hugged back, patting her friend on the back, just glad that she could help and comfort, her own spirit lightened by the bit of honest talk. "It's all I could be," she said. "Take the time you need, to rest.. but we'll miss you."

Kris nodded. "I'll be fine. But you promise me you'll try to fly in the holodeck some time, alright ? If only to please a friend." She asked with a soft smirk.

"Ok, I'll give it a try." Kitty smiled and waved again, heading out the door and back to proper duty. "Happy hunting!"


Lt Cmdr Kristiana Petrova Executive Officer Starbase 47 'Ronin'


Lt. Kathleen Black Chief Engineer Starbase 47 'Ronin'